2019 In A Nutshell



Every year I write a year-in-review - it's quite possible that no one finds these interesting but me.  But it does my heart good to look back on everything that happened in the previous year - the surprises, sorrows and stresses, joys and beauty, the things that delighted me, and the things that didn't work out quite the way I wanted them to.  To see God's hand through it all and thank Him for the ways that He has worked in our family, and in my heart, over the course of one year.  So I'll try to make it interesting to read for all of you, but just know that these years, reviewed here on the blog, are something I need to do for me too.

Without further ado...

January



-I started the year out with making goals for the first time in many years.  Post coming about how that actually went...

-We finished up renovating the kitchen and Derek started on the master bathroom.

-We made the difficult decision to explore some of the other churches in our area, because of some drama that went down at our current church.  This led to a months-long period of discouragement for me as we realized the pickin's, for what we are looking for in our area, were pretty slim.

-I did a day-in-the-life series on Instagram - I always think it's fun to go back and watch these later.  It always brings back fun memories.

-We visited the stock show, and the kids loved it.

-Georgie started walking, and quickly took off!

-We braved a snowstorm and visited the "butterfly zoo", which was a nice spot of tropical in the middle of all that winter.


On The Blog: My Favorite 20 Books From 2018,  Four Quick Reminders About Teaching Children The Bible

February



-We went sledding at my parent's house with my sister and her family!  It was so much fun, and made me feel like a kid again.

-We did a field trip the the Nature and Science museum with friends!

-We bought valentines for friends.

-Wyatt turned 8 years old.  We had a fun day celebrating him with a trip to Bass Pro Shops and the movies!

-We had my sister over for Valentine's Day for a little mini party.

-My mom watched ALL the grandkids for me and my siblings, and we had a rare date!  We saw Ralph Breaks The Internet at the dollar theater, because we're fancy like that.

-We went on a winter nature hike.

-I started a classics book club with some friends from my college days!  We started reading Far From The Madding Crowd.

-We continued our church wandering, and I felt so untethered and lost.  I felt deeply discouraged all through February, and realized I was overloading myself.  I stepped back from a few things, which helped with my stress levels, but not with my discouragement.

On The Blog: Dear Candy Hearts | Little Letters Vol. 1, How's School Going? A Mid-Year Homeschool Update


March 



-We got alot of snow, and I came up with this list of reasons to like snow, in response to an unusual amount of local friends complaining about it.  We live in the Rocky Mountains, people!  It's going to snow.

-I finally started to get into a morning routine and I began getting up before the kids - something I've wanted to do for a long time, but it has been too hard with young babies before this year.

-I celebrated the 12th anniversary of the day I met Derek!

-We got hit by a bomb cyclone.

-We visited the zoo amidst the snowy remnants of the bomb cyclone.

-Clarice drew our family portrait.

-I got a sinus infection and the kids got another stomach bug.  We never threw up as often as we did in the 2018-2019 winter.

-I really started struggling with how much time I was spending on Instagram, and I wrote about it a little bit.

-It started to warm up toward the end of the month, and we enjoyed a park day!

-We did an "inside the orchestra" field trip with our co-op, and the kids loved playing around with the instruments!

-I thought I was starting to come out of my doldrums and discouragement, but now I think it was just the initial bounce-back from cutting things out of my schedule in February.

On The Blog: How Do You Balance Homeschooling With Toddlers?, How We Connect With Other Homeschoolers, Why We Keep A Traditional School Schedule, Why I Read Middle Grade Books

April


-My discouragement came back with a vengeance, and after sprinkling in exhaustion and some people problems, I spent a couple weeks basically just crying about everything.  I was so relieved when Derek called my parents so I could go to New Orleans with him for a work trip.  An escape and reset was really badly needed at that point.

-My dad gave me some encouragement too.

-Clyde turned five years old!

-I got back into taking the kids on "mom days", and had alot of fun on my mom day with Gwen!  She also lost her upper front tooth.

-We had a wonderful and refreshing trip to New Orleans!  Ate alot of Beignets, took a couple plantation tours, listened to alot of jazz.  I came back with a fresh perspective, and things finally started looking up for real.

-Tried a new egg-coloring method with the kids.

-We celebrated Resurrection Day!

-We noticed a sore on our dog's neck, so I took him into the vet and we found out Harvey had a tumor.  Tumors in dogs are most often cancerous, and we really thought we were going to lose him. He had surgery to remove the tumor, and thankfully we found out a couple weeks later that it was benign!  Apparently it was a type of tumor normally found in cats.

-Took another trip to the zoo and admired the thousands of daffodils they had planted!

-Derek took the boys to see spring practice for his college football team, and he scheduled the girls and I for a Mermaid Painting Tea Party.  It was not something I would have ever dreamed up, and so much fun!

-I got jury duty - something I've always wanted to do is participate in the civic process through jury duty!  But the trial got cancelled before I could go.  Maybe someday.

On The Blog: Currently | April 2019, An Easter Memory



May


-We continued the bathroom renovation, and finally finished it up this month.  I forgot how long bathroom renovations take.

-Clyde and I got a mom day this month, and he helped me pick out some flowers, since I was itching for something summery around me.  Good thing I didn't plant them yet though, because it snowed again in May.

-I discovered a really pretty back room in our local library, and have enjoyed many blogging afternoons there since.

-The trees finally flowered late!  It was a weird year, because we usually get pretty flowers in April.

-We celebrated Mother's Day in a nice, laid-back way, and it was perfect.  I got some loose-leaf tea, and we visited my mom, and we relaxed.

-I bought a new swimsuit that I don't hate.

-We finished up school for the year.  In the snow.  I just laughed.

-Georgie started to get into "coloring".

-I visited the library book sale, which is basically the official start to summer for me.

-We started a new book for book club!  The Great Gatsby.  I ended up liking it way more than I thought I would.

On The Blog: How I Kept My Hair Under Control In New Orleans,  The One Thing Your Church Needs To Get Right , When Wiping Faces Doesn't Feel Satisfying


June


-We tried the last couple churches on our list, and finally made the decision to return to our old church.  We figured out that even with everything that had happened, it was still the best one for us.  I learned alot through this whole church process, and maybe learned to value loyalty to the local church body a little bit more.  No church is perfect, and I think maybe we needed to learn to stick with a place even when the imperfection starts to show.  I still haven't mulled over my thoughts enough to express them better than that.  But it was so good to be back.  Our church welcomed us back with open arms, and it felt like coming home.

-Clyde started gymnastics!  He was so excited, he bounced all over that gym.

-I got a very weird big toe injury.  I literally did nothing.  I was sitting at my desk and it randomly started swelling.

-Clarice and I had a mom day, and she's a clever little thing.

-We tried VBS for the first time for my big kids, and they LOVED it.  Georgie and I ran around town together, and spent too much money on donuts.

-We visited the Great Sand Dunes.

-Dollar movies started for the summer!  We went to the first one with friends.

-I celebrated my birthday at the homeschool conference, ha!  Including a spontaneous visit to a hotel.

-We celebrated Derek and my dad for Father's Day!  But Father's Day wasn't as perfect as I wanted it to be for Derek, so we celebrated again the next week with a campfire.

-We went to a state park, and though the day didn't go very well, it was very pretty.

-I took Wyatt with me to see Ken Ham at the homeschool conference.

-We visited Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was in the 50's in the middle of June!  So it was a chilly day.

-It finally started to feel like summer.  Wyatt made bird feeders and hung them around our yard.  We discovered that the bush in front four house is a lilac bush!

On The Blog:  Homeschooling And Bad Attitudes, My Homeschool Mom Summer Reading List


July


-We celebrated the 4th of July on the road to my grandma's!  We had a lovely visit with her and my Grandpa Bill, and we also took a trip to Mesa Verde National Park.

-I took the kids to the pool all by myself and shared a few tips here.

-We celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary!  The whole thing felt a little anti-climactic though, after our 10th last year.

-Wyatt and I had some one-on-one time, and he helped me shop for a few more summer flowers, now that we were sure they wouldn't freeze.

-It rained alot in July, and it was a quiet, nice mid-summer.

-We did some porch camping.

-We finally upgraded our mattress, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was. We have been sleeping on a 20+ old mattress for the last 11 years of our marriage, so we sprung for the really good mattress.  And it's a king now.  It's been really nice!

-We finally set up the trampoline my parent's got us for Christmas!  The kids love it.

On The Blog: A Few Homeschool Finds, Why I'm Glad My Blog Didn't Grow


August


-We saw a century plant.

-I felt ready for summer to be over.

-We took a trip to see my grandpa, and had a lovely day visiting with him and my Grandma Juanita.  They set up a unicorn sprinkler, and the kids loved it!

-We finally remembered we were supposed to take a vacation in August, and we got a last-minute trip to Florida on the calendar!  We saw the Everglades, went to SeaWorld, visited NASA, went to the largest McDonald's in the US, stopped at an orange grove, and had several pool and beach days.  We even did one day at Disney.  It was a much needed sunny vacation!

-I struggled alot with getting into fall and school mode once we were back from Florida, so that was a big swing from earlier in the month!  This is why I like to take vacation in June (but it's not an option with Derek's work).

-New classics book club pick - Dracula, which I never would have picked up on my own, but I enjoyed it!

On The Blog: Homeschool Wins And Fails (From Last Year),  Florida! 

September


-We started the school year and eased into it, because I wasn't ready.  We did nature hikes and visited a railroad museum to get us inspired to learn!  Also, Clyde started Kindergarten, so I officially have three students this year.

-I started experimenting with a simmer potpourri on the stove to get in the fall mood.

-I got involved in political volunteering for the first time, collecting signatures for a measure to stop late-term abortion in our state.  It's been interesting to learn about the process from this angle, and to see firsthand how much work goes into getting a measure on the state ballot!

-Derek and I got another rare date, and we went to see a play!  Hunchback Of Notre Dame, which was actually very depressing, but we had a nice time laughing about it together anyway!

-I started re-reading The Fellowship Of The Ring in earnest, and enjoyed it all through the fall.  I don't re-read very often, so this is noteworthy.

-My kids remembered learning about the Harvest Moon from school last year, and kept asking when it was - it happened to be on Friday, the 13th!

-There were fires in the mountains near our home, resulting from a pretty dry August and September - this is why I don't complain about the snow and rain.

-After meaning to all summer, we finally went fishing with the kids!  It was so fun, even though we didn't catch anything, and we want to go more often now.

-My little Clarice turned four years old!

On The Blog:  Homeschool Planning: How I Do It, How We Homeschool On The Go,  How I'd Do Disney Differently With Five Young Kids,  Should You Visit Kennedy Space Center With Young Kids?  

October


-I decided to try to blog every day in October.  I didn't make it, but I did blog a lot, all about memory-keeping.  It brought up a lot of unresolved feelings about social media and phones.

-I finally tried Stitchfix with a gift card I got over a year ago for my 30th birthday!

-We did a fall nature scavenger hunt for fun.  We also went fishing again, and I shared some photos and reasons to give fishing a try here.

-Wyatt started his second season of soccer, and it was fun seeing how much he has improved since last year!

-We took alot of nature hikes, and it's a good thing, because the fall colors were short lived.  I managed to get some family photos before the leaves were gone.

-It started snowing again!

-I went to visit my friends' ranch with the kids one weekend, while Derek was hunting!  We had a wonderful time, as always, and I'm so grateful for friendships that last.

-Georgie turned two years old!

-The kids hounded me until we celebrated Reformation Day again!  I shared my favorite Reformation Day resources here.

On The Blog: My Tips For Taking Your Own Family Photos, Where I'm From,  The Reason I Bought That Sweater, A Typical Homeschool Week,  The Day I Became Pro-Life , The Happiest Place On Earth 


November



-Clarice started her ballet class, which she has been dying to do for at least a year.  Gwen and Clyde started a homeschool gymnastics class, and they loved it too!

-After taking a home improvement break over the summer, we started again this month.  Derek took a week off work to install our fireplace for our new wood stove!

-I decided to take a social media break and signed out in the middle of November.  I needed some space and time to consider what I really want out of social media, and how to make sure it's serving me instead of the other way around.  More coming on this, I'm sure.

-We had a game night with my sister's family, and her Christmas decorations were up, and it was just lovely!

-We celebrated Thanksgiving at my parent's house, and Derek's mom came with us!  We ate good food, and played A Christmas Story: The Game, and it was lots of fun!

On The Blog: The Real Reason Why We Homeschool, What I Really Thought Of Stitchfix, Tools For A Social Media Break


December



-We visited a Christmas light display with my family to celebrate my dad's birthday!  We always bundle up and walk around outside enjoying the lights, and then go get pie afterwards.  It was unusually warm this year, so we were really able to enjoy the lights!

-We visited my grandpa and Grandpa Juanita again, and I loved hearing more stories from my grandpa's life.

-We visited our favorite Christmas shop!  We bought a "new house" ornament, since we forgot to last year.

-I finally made Christmas Bible verse cards for my Etsy shop.  (This might be a good time to bookmark them for next year, if you're interested?)

-Despite it being a short Christmas season, I stayed on top of things and didn't get too behind or too overwhelmed.  I shared about the presents I was most excited to give here!  I got a lovely gift in the mail from my longtime penpal Felicia, and another one in the mail from my dear ranch friends!

-It was a quiet Christmas season for us, with not as many gatherings as usual, but we did go to an ugly sweater party with our Sunday School class!  I got a fanny pack during the white elephant exchange, but it's actually a really nice one and I'm totally going to use it when we go to the zoo.

-I dabbled in creating my own recipes again, and invented this Spicy Raspberry Cheeseball recipe.

-I wrote a Christmas newsletter, just as a writing exercise, but I ended up liking it and was sorry it was too late to send it with my Christmas cards.  You can read it here.

-We did some baking together.

-We celebrated Christmas Eve with my family, and with my grandma and Grandpa Bill!  We will see Derek's family for a belated Christmas celebration next week.

-We had a wonderful Christmas Day together - it was about as perfect as a Christmas Day can go, and that is a rare thing because nothing usually goes perfectly.  We had time to reflect on Christ's birth, everyone was excited about their presents, and we just enjoyed each other.

-We celebrated Gwendolyn's and Derek's birthday (they have the same birthday, in case you forgot)!  I got Derek and Apple Watch because he has been dying to get one for years.  Gwen turned 7 years old!

-We are celebrating New Year's Eve tonight with final signature-collecting for my petition, and an impromptu dinner with my brother and his family!

On The Blog:  Bible Verses To Write In Your Christmas Cards (+ Printables),  When You Can't Find Christmas Peace

---

Wow, even though we didn't have alot of "big" events, it was a busy year!  I think there was alot of growing for me personally this year in different areas of my life.

A month or two ago, as I've been struggling with more circumstances that have left me feeling a little alone, Derek said to me offhandedly, "Maybe the Lord just wants you to learn to lean on Him more right now."  I actually think that sums up this year pretty succinctly.  I think the Lord used alot of different circumstances this year to teach me to lean on Him more and myself less.  I'm still learning how to do that, but I'm thankful that He is my solid rock, the One on whom it will always be safe to lean.



Happy New Year's Eve, friends!

Hope you have plans to do something fun!

Seven Years With Gwen


My Darling Gwen,

Seven years ago, you were born.  This last year with you has been a joy, maybe one of my favorites.

You lost so many teeth this year, and every time you did you got so excited to see what the Tooth Fairy was going to leave under your pillow (you know it's us).  We switched from money to toys, and that was a good choice, because you loved telling anyone who would listen about what you got.  Your gap-toothed smile is completely adorable, and I'm kind of sad to see your big tooth growing in.

You are still my best little helper, always ready to jump up and get me something I ask for, or asking me if you can clean something.  You are a great big sister, always ready to assist the littler ones.  I found you yesterday watching a movie with Georgie sitting on your lap - apparently no one else but you would do.  




You are my girly girl.  Your most requested gift for Christmas was nail polish, and on Christmas Day you spent the whole morning painting your nails and changing outfits on the box of Barbies we gave you.  I love that you like girly things, while still able to hold your own when playing rough-and-tumble games with your siblings outside, your long hair flying behind you.

You are so desperately anxious to learn to read better so you can handle the bigger words in your Bible.  You remember to bring it to church more consistently than I do, and occasionally open it up and try to read a few verses, though many of the words are still a little difficult.  A couple weeks ago you came up to me and seriously told me how you felt like you should give Jesus something for Christmas, since it is His birthday, you know.  Your precious little heart and love for the Lord at this young age brings so much joy to me.




You love the days that we get to spend time together, just you and me.  And sometimes when you especially need some mom-time, you will anxiously ask if it's your turn to go with me yet.  And I'll invent some errand, just so we can have that time.  You sit in the back seat, beaming, telling me what you think about everything passing outside the window.  Your eyes shine, and your little hand grips mine as we go through the stores together.  You laugh, your laugh that sounds like bubbling water in a clear mountain creek, so excited for the ice cream that we get every time.  




Those days with you are some of my favorites, my Darling Girl.  You bring me so much joy, and are such a delight to raise.  You are bubbly and fun, and everyone who meets you just loves being around you.  I look at you sometimes and just wonder at the fact that you are mine, that I get to be mama to such a brilliant light of a girl.

I love you more, Sweetheart.  I can't wait for another year with you.

Love Always,

Mama

Spicy Raspberry Cheeseball



How was everyone's Christmas?  We had a lovely day yesterday celebrating Jesus's birth and enjoying time together!  I'm sure I'll have some sort of recap or photo post coming in the next few days, but today I wanted to pop on here and share a recipe.

The last several years, I have been making a cheeseball for our family to enjoy on Christmas morning.  We make so many cookies and fudge for Christmas morning, the cheeseball is a nice little island of salty in the middle of all that sweet.



I usually make a jalepeno-bacon-pecan cheeseball, but this year I poked around on the internet for a second cheeseball to add to our Christmas spread.  I wanted something with raspberry in it, but I didn't find exactly what I was looking for - so I took inspiration from other recipes and came up with my own!






I had Derek try my creation, and he declared it a success, so I thought I'd share the recipe here!  It turned out just the way I wanted it to - raspberry and cream cheese, with just a little kick.  I know it's the day after Christmas now, so it's too late to make it for Christmas morning this year, but this might work for any New Year's Eve parties just around the corner!



Spicy Raspberry Cheeseball

2 packages cream cheese
4 heaping tablespoons raspberry preserves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp chipotle pepper
2 ounces white chocolate
1/2 cup walnuts

For Dippers:

wheat crackers
graham crackers

1.  Combine cream cheese, 2 heaping tablespoons of raspberry preserves, and spices in a bowl.  Mix together with electric mixer until well combined.  Form with spoon into a ball and chill while preparing coating.

2.  Finely grate the white chocolate and crush the walnuts.  Mix white chocolate and walnuts together and spread onto a cookie sheet.  Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of preserves in the microwave for 20 seconds to slightly melt.  Drop preserves by spoonful on top of the mixture in cookie sheet.

3.  Take cheeseball out of the refrigerator.  Wet your hands so the cheeseball won't stick, then gently pick it up and roll it in the cookie sheet mixture to coat.  Arrange in a bowl or plate, and chill until ready to serve with crackers!



Did you try any new recipes for Christmas this year?

When You Can't Find Christmas Peace



Peace is a theme of the Christmas season, and I've been mulling over the idea lately.

On the night that Jesus was born, angels lit up quiet skies and declared "on earth, peace among men!"  But the world still doesn't feel peaceful, does it?  Our attempts to drum up some peace around Christmas time feel artificial and hollow.  Around this globe, war and atrocities never truly end.  Maybe that's why the song "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" has resonated with me in my adult life.

"There is no peace on earth," I said.  For hate is strong, and mocks the song, of Peace on earth, goodwill to men..."




I think we understand peace all wrong.  We think quiet, or a brief ceasing of strife, or a fleeting feeling, or one happy day is Christmas peace.  But that's not the peace the angels were talking about.  The peace Christ brought when he was born in that stable is not the temporary, fading peace of one Christmas morning.

"But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace..." 
Ephesians 2:13-14a



Christ Himself is our peace.

We are a rebellious, sinful people.  We have broken God's laws, we are lost, deserving death as the penalty for the crimes we have committed against a holy God.  But instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, God in His mercy stretched out His hands, and offered us peace by offering Himself.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men. 



That baby, born in a manger that night, was God Himself.  He who had no sin, took the death we deserved by dying on the cross in our place.  He rose again, securing His victory over death and our sin. And He still stretches out His hands to us now, offering us peace with God, if we will just believe and trust in Christ to save us.  The truest peace of God can be ours forever.









"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 5:1

Someday Jesus will return again, and put all things right, and then His people will have peace in every sense of the word.  Until then, my prayer for you, my friends, is that you will know His peace in your heart this Christmas and always.  That you may reach out and grasp the hand of peace that God has offered to you in Jesus Christ, and find Him while He may be found.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Romans 15:13

"Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace."
Luke 1:78-79

He Himself is our peace.  May you know that truly, my friends. And the merriest of Christmases to you!


Sugar Cookie Memories



Everyone probably has memories of decorating Christmas cookies, and I am no exception.  When I was growing up, my mom involved us with as much of the Christmas baking as possible, and one of the most fun baking days was when we made and decorated cut-out sugar cookies.





I remember taking such care with my sugar cookies, trying to decorate them with different designs using just regular ol' powdered sugar frosting (which is not that conducive to elaborate designs, but I tried anyway).  I remember wishing we could get the colors to be a little more vibrant, but my favorite cookies were still the ones on which I found a way to include every frosting color.  I don't remember ever believing in Santa, but our family still played the "Santa game", and I'd pick my favorite frosted cookie to leave out for Santa (my dad) to eat on Christmas Eve.





Yesterday was designated for sugar cookies at our house.  The day didn't actually start out very smoothly, but I persevered and made the cookies anyway.  All of the kids are old enough to participate in one way or another this year, though there was a lot of finger-licking (let's just say these cookies are not for sharing outside of our family).  We watched the new Grinch cartoon, and then Jingle All The Way, in the background.  Harvey stole one of Georgie's cookies.








I was this close to throwing in the towel and forgetting about the sugar cookies when we were in the throes of a difficult morning, but I'm glad I didn't.  The kids decorated so diligently, and I could see them putting as much effort into their designs as I used to as a child.

I hope someday they have fond sugar-cookie memories too.

Did you decorate Christmas cookies as a kid?


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